Kill Your Darlings

William Faulkner famously advised writers to edit fearlessly, to remove particularly those sentences that they loved.  Faulkner knew that the narrative and cohesiveness of a novel is ruined by sentences that are incongruent, no matter how beautifully written.

Kill your darlings, he said.  If Faulkner were a psychiatrist, he would have said the same thing in psychotherapy.

The goal of all growth oriented therapies is to help people become more truly themselves, to be free of neuroses and worries, inhibitions and self-defeating behaviors.

We are usually unaware of how our mind conspires to trap us in old patterns of being and behaving; having looked through the same cloudy lenses for so long, we mistakenly think that the imperfections we see are of the world, not our perception.

To see the world clearly, we have to fearlessly question even our most closely held belief about ourselves and the world. We have to be willing to let go of old beliefs and assumptions, even those that we hold dearly.  This is why a lot of spiritual exploration occurs during times of crisis and confusion. Also, spiritual exploration can easily throw a person into a vortex of existential confusion.

So examine your beliefs with courage, gentleness and compassion.

As part of a meditative exercise, begin to challenge your assumptions, even some long standing ones. For example, what is your definition of success?  When was the last time you examined your assumptions about material success?   If you redefined it radically, what would that do to your life choices, and to the evolving narrative of your life?

Or, what are your assumptions about what you can or cannot do?  What if you were completely wrong about the limitations you have set for yourself?

Some self-definitions keep us comfortable but stagnant.

When we let go of these assumptions and definitions, we are free to become ourselves. When we kill our darlings, our story begins to flow again.

(From my column in Outlook Business)